Barcelona Transfer News: Riyad Mahrez Admires Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala Rumours

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2016

Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Stoke City at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Leicester City marvel Riyad Mahrez has intensified speculation that links him with a move to Barcelona after confessing "everyone wants to play with [Lionel] Messi." Plus, club legend Xavi has tipped Juventus' Paulo Dybala for a move to the Camp Nou.

Speaking to Goal's Eliot Rothwell this week, Mahrez acknowledged that while it wasn't a "goal or dream" of his to play alongside Messi, he certainly wouldn't shun the opportunity to partner the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"It’s not my goal or my dream but obviously everyone wants to play with Messi," Mahrez said. "One day, maybe. Why not? I didn’t have a hero but there were some players I liked watching. Players like Zinedine Zidane, Didier Drogba, Messi, the Brazilian Ronaldo."

The Daily Mail's Simon Jones reported Barcelona to be one of the clubs interested in signing the Algeria international in the buildup to the January transfer window, but Mahrez remained at the King Power Stadium.

His influence has been critical in guiding Leicester to the Premier League's summit this season, with the Foxes currently five points clear at the head of the English top flight with 13 games remaining.

Barcelona strengthened their flanks with the signings of Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal last summer—although the pair didn't register until January—but Barca could complete more signings at the end of this season.

The BBC's John Bennett outlined Mahrez as his "only worry" when it came to the discussion of players who could leave Claudio Ranieri's ranks at the end of Leicester's resounding 2015-16 success:

The winger has scored 14 goals and made 10 assists in 24 Premier League appearances this season, an average of one direct hand in a goal every game, an incredible turnover considering he netted just four times in 30 games last term.

ESPN FC's Alex Shaw helped emphasise the support Leicester have gained in what's undoubtedly been the most open Premier League campaign ever:

Leicester will be hard-pressed to keep hold of their talisman this summer should Barcelona come lurking, and an apparent temptation to test himself alongside the likes of Messi could lure Mahrez to Spain.

Meanwhile, Barcelona icon and Al Sadd midfielder Xavi spoke to Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo and elaborated on which European players he feels would fit in at Barcelona, picking out Dybala as one (h/t Football Italia).

"I really like two players who I think have Barca DNA. Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala. They’re amazing, and because of their style and the quality of their play, they’d fit easily into the ‘machine.’ I see them as potential future Barca players."

Dybala is thriving in Turin since moving from Palermo last year.
Dybala is thriving in Turin since moving from Palermo last year.Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

Dybala is enjoying a fruitful first season at Juventus. The Argentina international has scored 13 goals as well as making eight assists in just 19 Serie A starts, already matching his career-best scoring tally achieved at Palermo last term.

The 22-year-old has been likened to compatriot Sergio Aguero in the past, and with Lionel Messi edging closer to the age of 30, Xavi's taste in a potential future successor to the throne could be far worse.